On our first real chase day of 2014, we followed a couple of rotating storm cells — mostly high-based, but with rotation and some nice structure — from eastern Wyoming into western Nebraska. One of the most interesting events was this whirl of dust that developed beneath a wall cloud — or lowered base of the storm. Tornadoes do not always have to have full condensation funnels from cloud to ground, and the High Plains areas of Wyoming and Colorado are often noted for producing brief tornadoes of this nature even when cloud bases are high and temperatures/dew points are relatively low (many of us were wearing sweaters and jackets as the easterly inflow winds raced into the storm). While from our distance this appeared to be a rotating cylinder of dust beneath a possible a funnel above, some other chasers of my acquaintance who were closer said the dust whirl did not rotate and was likely dust kicked up by an RFD — a rear flank downdraft, a feature common to supercells. So was it a tornado or not? It’s not often a straightforward question. Whether it was or not is an academic question, though, with no damage/injuries in open terrain, and what was a good first chase day with excellent positioning on a somewhat sparse road network and some good storm features. We’ll be looking for even more spectacular supercells and possibly some no-question-about-it tornadoes today, probably in Colorado.
— Kevin Myatt